If you witnessed or remember any of these Greatest Offbeat Eagles Moments, you are a true Old and Odd fan. To qualify as a BORED-certified Old-Time Lifer, you don’t have to recognize all of them, I’m looking for about a 50% recognition rate:
- Rookie WR Tommy McDonald replaces Bill Stribling in the 9th game of the 1957 season after Stribling is crushed on a pass wickedly defensed. McDonald then catches two TD passes, a 61-yarder and a 25-yarder. OC Charlie Gauer announces after the game, “I think we’ve found a spot for McDonald”. The rest is HOF history. But for a 7-year-old kid in Philly, it was the California Gold Rush the next morning, scraping up every nickel in sight to buy multiple packs of Topps or Fleer football cards, in search of the rare Tommy McDonald rookie card.
- Monday Night Football 1988 — Eagles vs. Giants, QB Randall Cunningham takes a shot from Carl Banks and bounces off, somehow keeps his balance, and fires a TD pass to Jimmy Giles cutting across the end zone. I’m 38 years old and watching at a friend’s house— I spill my can of Coors on his new couch. I am ashamed and elated at the same time.
- 1989 — the Bounty Bowl. HC Buddy Ryan resents former Eagle kicker Luis Zendejas for signing with the Cowboys and uttering some parting shots at the Ryan clubhouse culture. Ryan goes renegade and offers a $500 cash bonus to the first Eagles player on special teams who runs down Zendejas with bad intent. Outside linebacker Jessie Small takes the bait, and knocks Zendejas into an alternate universe…politically and medically incorrect today, but it happened then. I’m watching at home, silently laughing but feeling dirty.
- Deceased former Eagles (and Phillies/76ers) broadcaster Bill Campbell calling the entire 1960 championship season on Eagles radio and TV… Campbell became like a father-figure to me, educationally speaking, because he was so meticulous in explaining every play and breaking things down so even a kid like me could understand. My own dad complained Bill talked too much! Bill was also as objective as a fanatic Eagles fan could be. His best line on the season: “The Eagles have played way over their heads—they’re not the best team in the league, nor the best in their own division, but they were the best team every Sunday.”
- 1966…the Eagles were struggling that season, but against Dallas at home, safety Joe Scarpati stole the ball away from Dan Reeves after a late-game completion to protect a 24-23 lead and eventual win. It might have been the most dramatic defensive play ever by an Eagles defense long before the game-changing strip of Tom Brady in the 2017/18 Super Bowl. Maybe Herm Edwards’ pickup and game-winning return of the Pisarcik-Czonka fumble at the Meadowlands should be up there, too. But at the time of the Scarpati miracle, I was still emotionally recovering from the letdown of the Phillies’ collapse in the ’64 season. Joe Scarpati got me over that hump.
- The December 30, 1995 playoff win over the Detroit Lions at the Vet…Final score was 58-37, but in reality not even that close. It looked like the Ray Rhodes era was taking root, and Rodney Peete was at the top of his game at QB. Unfortunately, the Birds got clobbered at Dallas the following week, and Rodney Peete got hurt in the process. The team further disintegrated due to free agent defections by a bunch of quality guys. Dark days ensued, but the Vet had never rocked like it rocked that day against Detroit. As a middle-aged man, I felt rejuvenated.
- That game in Texas Stadium in 1996 when the Cowboys were driving for the win and Troy Aikman misfired on an interception by James Willis, who then lateraled to Troy Vincent who ran it in for the clinching score. I was recovering from an unwanted divorce at the time, and was watching in a strip club. Somehow I was inspired that life could get better.
- That game against Buffalo when Randall Cunningham loaded up from his own 5, standing deep in his own end zone, and connected with Calvin Williams—oops, I mean Fred Barnett— on the then-second-longest TD pass in Eagles history. I don’t even remember the date of that game [it was December 2, 1990], but I do remember thinking the sky was the limit for me and for Mr. Cunningham. Soon after I started my own business. It lasted almost 30 years.
- When the Eagles beat Atlanta 27-10 in the NFC Championship Game at the Linc on January 23, 2005…it was close to 0 degrees F. wind-chill during the game. Chad Lewis had a multi-TD game. Brian Dawkins shouted “Hallelujah!” while holding the NFC Trophy at the end. I remember thinking “oh no, Lewis hurt himself and probably won’t get to play in the Super Bowl!” Amazingly, I found the negative in a supremely positive outcome. This trait seems to be common among Philly fans, I reckon.
- A Monday Night Football game in 1974…Cowboys leading the Eagles 10-0, on the verge of scoring again when Doug Dennison takes the handoff and heads off tackle from the 4… Bill Bergey hits him chest high and completely suspends animation. Joe “The Bird” Lavender picks up the resultant fumble and runs 96 yards the other way for a score. Eagles go on to beat the Cowboys 13-10. It was the first time in years that the Eagles had beaten Dallas. I was 24 and didn’t know any better. I thought it was a turning point. It wasn’t.
- On November 23, 1970, the Eagles debuted on Monday Night Football on ABC. It was a home game against the Giants at old Franklin Field. The Eagles were a horrible 1-7-1 at the time, and the night was bitterly cold. Eagles owner Leonard Tose threw a pregame party for the media to celebrate the event. Howard Cosell threw back several vodka martinis, but didn’t stop drinking as he tried to stay warm in the frigid broadcast booth during the game. After halftime Cosell suddenly disappeared from the broadcast. He was three sheets to the wind. Somehow the Eagles came from behind to beat the Giants 23-20. The same night, I lost a drinking contest in my college dorm. Yes, it was vodka shots with beer chasers—and I played the fool when I found out my opponent was substituting water for vodka. Besides losing $5 to my opponent, I lost my lunch and dinner to the porcelain god.
That’s the “Dear Diary” off-the-beaten-path stuff I remember since following the Eagles as a 7-year-old kid. They are not necessarily the greatest moments in Eagles football history, but rather those oddball things which somehow made enough of an impression on me over the years to remember where I was, and whom I was with, when they happened.
[Thanks to ~BROZ from Drafttek for correcting my memory of the Cunningham-to-Barnett bomb in Item 8. Funny that I mis-remembered the receiver as Calvin Williams, because I’m a huge Barnett fan. Subconsciously I must want to see Calvin Williams get a lot more love in Eagles history—he really put up some nice numbers over 6 seasons. Williams (5-11, 185) was drafted out of Purdue by the Eagles in the fifth round of the 1990 NFL Draft. He was the third wide receiver the Eagles chose in the draft, behind Mike Bellamy and Fred Barnett. As a rookie in 1990, Williams earned the starting wide receiver spot alongside Mike Quick in training camp, which was previously held by Cris Carter. He went on to break the team’s rookie touchdown reception record set by Bobby Walston in 1951 with nine. He made 37 catches for 602 yards and was named to Football News’ All-Rookie Team.
Williams led the team in touchdown receptions in 1990 and 1992, and in 1993 he led the team with 10 touchdown catches, a career-high. In 1993, he caught 60 passes for 725 yards. In a game against the Redskins on September 19, Williams caught eight passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns, including the winning score. He earned the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for that performance. In 1995 he led the team with 63 receptions, a career-high.
We rarely hear the name of Calvin Williams in any fan discussions of the greatest Eagles receivers of all time. Maybe we should.]